In addition to getting people laid and enhancing training montages in boxing movies, music has long salved the festering emotional wounds of humanity. Who among us has never crawled into a weepy ballad when life laid a bag of flaming dog shit at our front door, rang the doorbell and ran away?

At the very least, music soothes our savage breast; in its greater moments, music has accomplished much more. Or have you forgotten the powers of the pre-Psychic Network Dionne Warwick?

“It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared but suffering that degrades.”—Susan Sontag

A Chinese girl stopped me in the street, seeking money
for a black man, ill with cholera, whose name
neither of us knew.

She showed me his photo. Sweat beaded down from his
temples to his throat. His lips, sand paper parched,
opened like a goldfish’s.

His eyes rolled back, half translucent, half milky. I had seen such eyes
once in The Exorcist, in which
the demon always won.

Doctors pulled up his tee with pearl white hands
to reveal his charcoal body, which, perhaps,
was no longer his after the camera click.

Outside the photo, the sun might be red, or black
as his tan. Perhaps it did not matter –
Colours were absent in eyes of the nearly dead.

“Please help Heidi people.” Her pledge hid the heat of Haiti
and her shame of mispronunciation.
She showed me the photo again, as if

she owned it
and the image in it,
the only evidence of poverty she ever had.

I can’t save the world, but I want to save the world. This has always been the case. Many times as a child, I thought I could save the world or otherwise do the impossible. Many times, I was proven wrong.

I first saw a copy of Fishboy through the window of a Virginia bookstore. This was 1997 or so. I was walking through Richmond with Vincent, about my only friend in the state at this time, on a short break from college. He’d read the book; the cover stopped him in his tracks. He swore I’d love it. I went inside and bought a copy.

Long overdue correspondence from yours truly.



Dear Quarterflash,

Remember me? It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? About thirty years, actually, since I bought your self-titled cassette after hearing your moody gem, “Harden My Heart” on the radio.  I was 12 years old, and having only a limited personal music collection, I listened to your tape nonstop, removing it from my poor excuse for a boom box only long enough to turn it over and pop it back in.  In my opinion, it was filler-free.  Each synthy cut stood out as an unappreciated classic. I took you to bed with me each night, and in the morning, you delivered papers with me.   Remember?

Then one day the tape wore so thin that it became unplayable. Instead of replacing your album with a newer copy, I bought the new album by Pink Floyd called, “The Wall.” A lot of things changed after that.  Do you guys know them?  They seem pretty moody too, between you and me.

Just so you know, I’ve always treasured those nights lying in bed together, the massive Koss headphones wafting your smooth jazz into my mind, pretending that singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross had written these songs for me. I imagined that it was after a tempestuous argument between us that she sat down and penned the fist pumper, “Find Another Fool.”  In my Quarterflash fantasy world, she always took my 12 year old ass back. By the way, it never struck me as odd that Rindy would sing a romantic song to another girl (“Valerie”).  I just figured that the song was simply… well, I have no idea how I missed that, now that I think of it.

I write you now because I must come clean and admit that I have denied you several times. In fact, I have spent most of my life not mentioning to anyone that I owned your album, let alone that I obsessed over it. I listen to lots of death metal now. Have you ever heard of Emperor? They’re really good. Check them out- they sing a great song called “I Am the Black Wizards” that I listen to when I go running.  Were any of your songs Satanic?  A lot of theirs are.  But unlike you, they don’t have a saxophone player.  So you’ve got that on them.

Anyway, although I haven’t listened to you in three decades, and though I am now a tattooed, jaded misanthrope, I will always secretly be your biggest fan. Could you please send me an autographed picture of Rindy? And please make it to, “My boyfriend Joe, who is the coolest kid at May Street School and the best boyfriend ever, love always, Rindy.”


And sorry.




Dear Jay Leno-

My name is Joe and I grew up in Worcester, not far from where you grew up. Hey, I know you’re super busy and I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I was just wondering- how much money do you really need?

Thanks and have a great rest of the day,





Dear Copenhagen (Denmark) Marriott-

I just wanted to send a long overdue letter of thanks to your staff for not telling on me when I stayed at your hotel five years ago and precipitated that rather anxious morning for a lot of people.   As you can see, I’m still alive!  Is there a word for “lol” in Danish? If so, I’d use it right now! lol

Thank you for calling my room so many times that morning to make sure I was OK, even though I did not pick up the phone.  I don’t know which attempt finally worked, but I’m deeply appreciative that you stuck with it until I finally answered. Because of your Danish stick-tuitiveness, I made it into work by 1 p.m., thus avoiding a dreaded no call/no show at the office that day. Can you imagine what people would have thought?

I also appreciate you not sending a letter to my company explaining how and why you kicked my door in. As a testament to your customer-friendly attitude, you didn’t even charge me for the repairs. In fact, had you not called me to confirm that the repairs to the door, post-kicking-in, were to my satisfaction, I might never have known of all your hard work.

I hope you enjoyed my gift this past summer and that it came as a nice surprise when you learned that while in your city for a whole week last July, I stayed at another hotel.


Joe Daly




Dear American Lung Association-

What’s going on? How are everyone’s lungs today? Hah hah… Hey, I was just wondering what I might be able to do here on my end to get you to stop bothering me. Any suggestions or direction you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

By way of background, my friend did some sort of cycling event a couple years ago. He agreed to raise money for you and you in turn, gave him a snazzy-looking web page where he could direct all of his friends to donate money. It was so cool! His name is Brian, by the way. Ring a bell? There was a little graph that showed how much he had raised and what his goal was. I think it was a giant lung.  Well played, ALA!  What will you guys come up with next??

Anyway, I donated some money, mainly to help him out, but I do agree that lungs are important. I use both of mine everyday! I guess lungs are to me what phones are to you, because since I gave you money, you guys now call me what seems like everyday, asking how much more I would like to donate to your organization.  I sort of feel bad for reminding a recent caller that I subscribe to the “Do Not Call” registry of the United States of America.  I must have caught them after a dentist appointment or something because that caller became irate and angrily advised that charities are exempt from that list and then again inquired how much would I like to give?

Sometimes I don’t pick up, but then you don’t leave a message, so I figure that it can’t be too important, right? I assume that if the doors were about to close for lack of funding, you guys might leave a message at the beep.  And then you send me those emails every couple of weeks, asking me to join your fight by sending you money. But I’m a lover, not a fighter! Can’t I just send some love your way?  Make lungs, not war!  You can use that last one if you want.

So it would mean a lot to me if you could please, please, please stop making me view charity as a sucky and heartless game for relentless people with no souls.  I’m going to continue to ignore your calls and mark your emails as spam but please don’t take it personally! My lungs and I still love you- we just feel like our relationship has sort of, well, run its course, yanno?

Thanks and keep those lungs clean!